Team guy Poulter does it for himself to land Chinese windfall
Ian Poulter joked about taking two years off after his Ryder Cup heroics. Now he is glad he didn’t. Five weeks on from his unbeaten performance in the victory over the Americans, the 36-year-old yesterday joined Darren Clarke as the only Europeans to win two World Golf Championship titles.
Poulter trailed by nine shots halfway through the HSBC Champions at Mission Hills in China, but two closing rounds of 65 gave him a two-stroke triumph over British Open champion Ernie Els and Americans Phil Mickelson, Jason Dufner and Scott Piercy.
“It’s so nice to get my hands on another trophy,” said Poulter, whose last success was the Australian Masters last December. “I’ve been in good form for a while and knew if I did the right things and stayed patient I would be right there. It’s been an amazing six weeks.”
What he could not have expected, however, was for both overnight leaders Lee Westwood and Louis Oosthuizen to finish so poorly. After a third round 61 had brought him level Westwood went three clear early on, but double-bogeyed the short fifth and had three back nine bogeys.
That makes it a total of 100 majors and world championships in his career and the 39-year-old has yet to win one.
Oosthuizen, five clear of the field after 36 holes, also shot only a level par 72 on the low-scoring lay-out and so they dropped back into a tie for sixth place. Poulter’s performance certainly put a smile back on his face after he had let off steam on Twitter on Saturday night about Arsenal’s performance at Manchester United.
“Simply not good enough,” he told his 1.3million followers. “This is not an Arsenal side that can compete. But they are making a profit. I guess someone is happy. Bored of watching this sh*t. Not in the same league. Won’t finish top six.”
Poulter was in a tie for fourth with 18 holes and still two back despite a front nine 32. But while Westwood then bogeyed the 10th, 12th and long 15th his fellow Englishman kept his foot on the accelerator. An 18-foot putt gave Poulter a fifth birdie of the day on the 10th, he two-putted from the fringe on the 568-yard next and at the 15th he was bunkered in two, but holed another 18-footer.
Mickelson, Els and defending champion Martin Kaymer had become his biggest dangers by then, but the German’s chances went when he fell from joint second to ninth with a triple-bogey on the short 17th. After finding sand off the tee Kaymer went over the green, then chipped back into the bunker he had just left.
Poulter’s lead came down from three to one when Mickelson also birdied the 15th and he bogeyed the 17th, failing to get up and down from right of the green. But the three-time Masters champion took four on the 17th himself, duffing a chip that did not even make the green.
Poulter’s bunkered approach to the 460-yard last meant there was still work to be done, but after playing partner Els had just failed with a 45-foot birdie attempt he holed from nine feet for a 21 under par total.
That left Mickelson having to hole his second shot to force a play-off, but he could only par and so with a 68 he had to share the runner-up spot with Els (67), Dufner (64) and Piercy (65). Poulter was, of course, the happiest man given the fact that world top two Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods both turned the event down. He is now back into the top 20.
McIlroy was quickly on with congratulations to his Ryder Cup team-mate, who earned over €928,000 for his week’s work. “Ballsy up and down at the last,” said the northern Irishman on Twitter. “Wouldn’t expect anything less!”
Two world championships are great, of course, but a major is the biggest dream. “People keep asking all the time ‘when, when, when’. I don’t know when and I’m trying really hard – I’ll do my best next year.”
With Peter Hanson and Justin Rose only sharing 24th place, McIlroy holds a massive lead of more than €750,000 in the European Tour money list race with only three weeks left – and he is playing all of them.
Mickelson is also at next week’s Singapore Open and he said: “I’ll see if I can improve one spot there. It was good for me to come back after having not played since the Ryder Cup and pick up where I left off. I knew I needed to make some birdies, but the pins were very tough to get close to.”
Els contented himself with a near-miss on his return from injury. “It’s sore, don’t get me wrong, and it was a bit of a physical test for me, but a good week,” he stated. “And I almost made him think there on 18!”
World Rankings: How they stand
Ian Poulter has climbed from 26th to 15th in the world after his win in China. The top six remain the same – Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods did not play – but joint runner-up Jason Dufner improves from 10th to seventh.
1 R McIlroy (NIre) 12.78pts
2 T Woods (US) 9.24
3 L Donald (Eng) 8.77
4 L Westwood (Eng) 6.71
5 J Rose (Eng) 6.26
6 A Scott (Aus) 6.10
7 J Dufner (US) 5.99
8 W Simpson (US) 5.80
9 B Snedeker (US) 5.77
10 L Oosthuizen (SA) 5.72
Other Irish: 24 Graeme McDowell, 56 Shane Lowry, 61 Padraig Harrington.
European Tour – Race to Dubai
1 R McIlroy (NIre)€3,407,300
2 P Hanson (Swe)€2,642,524
3 J Rose (Eng)€2,566,323
4 I Poulter (Eng)€2,270,851
5 B Grace (SA)€2,081,961
6 E Els (SA)€2,077,533
7 L Oosthuizen (SA) €2,033,391
8 F Molinari (Ita)€1,852,201
9 L Donald (Eng)€1,838,492
10 G McDowell (NIre)€1,822,42